As a landlord, you may experience the untimely death of a tenant. It’s an emotional time for the tenant’s family, and it’s a situation that requires sensitivity and fairness. Here are some steps that you can take to alleviate stress from the situation.
Notify emergency contact and identify executor
Be sure to contact the right people. Contact the police right away if you’re the one who discovers your tenant, and leaves the property exactly as you found it. In this situation, you’ll be contacting the person who your renter listed as their emergency contact.
The executor may be different from the emergency contact, so this is good information to know. The executor handles the financial decisions of the deceased, so this will be the person you will be in touch with regarding rent and the security deposit.
Secure the property
After you find out that your current renter has passed away, it’s best to secure the property as soon as possible. The unit may be vulnerable to theft for a number of reasons. An unoccupied rental is always at risk for a break-in. The tenant’s relatives may come by the rental to claim property, and they may already have a key. Change locks and make sure that the building is secure so that you will know who is coming in and out of the property.
Know what happens to the lease
The lease does not automatically terminate at the renter’s death. If your renter had a long-term lease, then they are responsible for rent for the duration of the lease period. You can work with the executor to come to an agreement on this. For instance, if the tenant passed away near the beginning of a longer lease period, you probably don’t want the property to sit vacantly and the executor probably does not want to pay for additional months of rent.
On a month-to-month lease, the tenant’s passing acts as a 30-day notice. The executor or the estate is responsible for rent for the 30 days after the notice. In both situations, you can work with the executor to have possessions moved out in order to ready the home for a new tenant.
Have the family sign a release
Specifically, you can use a Release to the Rights of Possession form. This form states that the tenant has ended their occupancy of a rental unit and that they have removed all of their possessions. It can help avoid disputes over property that may come up in the future.
Return the security deposit
The deposit may be applied towards damages, unpaid rent, or other items outlined in the lease. In the event that the renter’s untimely death was less than peaceful, you may need to spend more time and money clean and repair the unit for the next renter. Unused security monies can be returned to the executor. Be sure to comply with your state’s law regarding security deposits.
The death of a loved one is a difficult time for a family. You find that you need to treat the situation a little differently, so it’s good to know what your rights are. Be considerate about a timeline for the bereaved, but make sure that your property is protected and can be rented back out in a reasonable amount of time.